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2012 Mitsubishi i-Miev (photos)

Mitsubishi's little electric car joins the Nissan Leaf in this small segment of the automotive market. The i-Miev's limited range and poor freeway manners make it best for cities and the suburbs.

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Wayne Cunningham
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1 of 22 Josh Miller/CNET
The i-Miev is the second mass-market electric car from a major automaker, following the Nissan Leaf. Its specs come up short of the Leaf in most ways, but its base price is also lower. With federal and state tax incentives, the total price of the i-Miev can be brought down to just over $20,000.
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2 of 22 Josh Miller/CNET
The i-Miev is a very odd-looking little car, but the overall design is very space-saving and efficient. It is based on the Mitsubishi i car, sold in Japan with a 660cc engine, and primarily designed for city use.
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There are some odd quirks to the design, such as the right-side windshield wiper lying upright in its rest position.
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Although the i-Miev is small, just over 12 feet long, it boasts four doors and a recommended seating capacity of four. The roofline is high, making the cabin very accessible.
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The i-Miev has very small, 15-inch tires and a softly tuned suspension. At freeway speeds the car doesn't feel particularly stable, but it's fine below 40 mph.
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Following the i car on which it is based, the electric motor, control electronics, and some of the lithium ion battery packs are located in the rear. The motor also drives the rear wheels.
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There is a bit of cargo area, even with the rear seats up, large enough for a few grocery bags or one standard CNET editor.
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The charge port is a J1772 standard plug, allowing electricity and data transmission. The car can automatically shut off charging when its battery is full. On a 110-volt outlet, it takes 22.5 hours for a full charge, and 7.5 hours from a 240-volt outlet.
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The interior is low on frills, with cloth seat covers and plenty of plastic over the dashboard.
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10 of 22 Josh Miller/CNET
Mitsubishi puts a little plastic patch in the middle of the rear bench, a suggestion that the seat is only appropriate for two people. The weight of five people in the car would reduce the range and acceleration.
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Mitsubishi sells the i-Miev in two trims, ES and SE. This SE trim car is also optioned up with the Premium package, which brings in the navigation head unit.
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Naturally, the i-Miev uses electrically boosted power steering, although with the small tires the boost requirements should be minimal.
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The left side of the steering wheel holds audio and phone controls. Voice command controls the phone system.
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The instrument cluster is very simple compared with what you find in the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt. The power gauge is accompanied by a digital speed readout and two other displays. The right display shows remaining range.
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The shifter selects the different drive modes. Its gate is a little confusing, making it too easy to skip past D, for example, and put the car in Eco mode.
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The maps from the navigation system look good, although there is no perspective view. They are stored on a hard drive, and the response time is fast.
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The touch screen offers a variety of destination input options. But this navigation system is not tailored for an electric car, as the points-of-interest database shows a category for gas stations, but nothing for charging stations.
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Along with voice command, you can enter phone numbers on the touch screen, or look through the phone book, copied over from a paired phone.
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The stereo offers a good number of audio sources, including storage on the car's own hard drive.
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The car features Bluetooth streaming audio, but Mitsubishi does not take advantage of the full screen.
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There's iPod integration, with a USB port in the car and this interface for the music library.
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The i-Miev also features a rearview camera with the Premium package.

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